Agriculture and Agriculture et
Agri-Food Canada Agroalimentaire Canada
de la recherche
life's basic building blocks
to secure Canada s future food supply
Canadian Crop Genomics Initiative
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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
©Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada 1 998
Technical Bulletin 1 998-7E
Catalog No. A54-8/1 998-7E ISBN 0-662-27130-0
August 1 998
Strategic Promotion, Research Branch
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Sir John Carling Building, Room 743
Tel.: (613) 759-7878 Fax: (613) 759-7768
Table of Contents
Background: Consultation findings for the renewal
of the Canadian Biotechnology Strategy
Canadian potential to capture the benefits
The receptor base for technologies
AAFC competency in plant science
Some biotechnology applications in AAFC
Linkages and partnerships
Proposed crop genomics initiative in relation
to the overall Canadian genomics effort
Research Branch led functional genomics
Targeting Canadian traits
Biotechnology research and expertise within AAFC 20 (
Pacific Agricultural Research Centre, Summerland 20
Lethbridge Research Centre 21
Saskatoon Research Centre 22
Cereal Research Centre, Winnipeg 23
Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre, Ottawa 25
Southern Crop Protection and
Food Research Centre, London 26
Soils and Crops Research and
Development Centre, Sainte-Foy 27
Potato Research Centre, Fredericton 27
Other centres 28
All living animals and plants have genes that control the fundamental
processes of life. Most genes are organized in physical structures
called chromosomes. Genomics is the area of science that deals with
understanding the structure, function, and interrelationships of the
genes contained in living organisms. Some of the benefits that may
result from an improved understanding of the structure and function
of genes include
■ more effective diagnosis and treatment of diseases in humans
■ new crops that are more nutritious and higher yielding
■ reduced requirements for pesticides and fertilizers in food
Genomics will lead to the development of crops that can be used to
produce a wide range of industrial, nutraceutical, and
Recent advances in our capability to do genomics research are
regarded as the most important new tools we have to meet the future
needs of the planet for food. The hugely expanded ability to clone
genes and study their function provides possibilities for improving the
performance of crops that are of strategic importance to this country.
Canada needs to develop and sustain a leading position in this area
of discovery, to secure a strategic interest in the development of
superior crops for Canadian agriculture. Genomics research offers a
rare opportunity for Canadians to
■ reduce our reliance on pesticides and fertilizers for food
■ make the business of food production more sustainable and
■ ensure a safe and affordable food supply for the future
■ contribute to value-added processing opportunities for the sector
■ ensure that we remain globally competitive in the crops that we
have a comparative advantage in growing
■ strengthen Canada's position as a leading country for research
and development in plant biotechnology
■ create and retain high technology jobs at home.
This document outlines a framework for a coordinated and highly
focussed Canadian Crop Genomics Initiative to be lead by the
Research Branch of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).
Recent advances in genomics research technologies, including
processes for automating many of the steps in gene identification,
promise to greatly accelerate the process of assigning functions to
This initiative aims to identify the structure and function of important
genes. The work lays the basis for the development of future
Canadian crops that
■ are resistant to diseases and insects
■ can better withstand stresses such as cold and heat
■ have better yield and quality attributes.
Another benefit will be new platform technologies that will preserve
the freedom to operate for a broad base of Canadian industries and
public-sector institutions so that they can bring the products of their
biotechnology innovations to the market in support of the Canadian
The 1 8 specialized centres of the Research Branch of Agriculture and
Agri-Food Canada have a wide range of expertise in plant biology
that is essential if the process of gene discovery is to extend to genes
of true agricultural importance. AAFC expertise includes
■ molecular biology
■ crop physiology
■ weed science
■ natural products chemistry
■ crop breeding
This integrated expertise is essential to
■ finding useful genes
■ understanding their function
■ incorporating them into germplasm and crop varieties for the
benefit of the Canadian agri-food industry.
There is a clear strategic opportunity for Canada to build on its
historic strength in plant breeding and plant biology in this era of
gene discovery. Targeted funding for key infrastructure developments
and key biological resources at selected centres within the Research
Branch of AAFC, allied with more widely distributed funding to
selected centres of expertise in universities and the private sector for
biology-driven gene identification and crop enhancement projects,
would constitute a highly competitive Canadian Crop Genomics
These highly focussed activities in agricultural crop genomics
complement other genomics research proposals under consideration
from the National Research Council (NRC) and the Medical Research
findings for the renewal
of the Canadian
The sixth report (1998) of the National Biotechnology Advisory
Committee entitled Leading in the Next Millennium recommended
■ Canada should continue to lead in biopharmaceuticals and
agricultural biotechnology; and the federal government should
advance postgenomic studies through increased funding to
Canada's genome program with strong emphasis on functional
genomics, bioinformatics, proteomics, domain studies, and
differential gene expression.
The Canadian Agricultural Research Council conducted consultations
this spring in support of the development of the Canadian
Biotechnology Strategy. In a report entitled Opportunities and
Challenges for Application of Biotechnology in the Canadian Agri-
Food Sector, it recommended that
■ public institutions play a leadership role in a number of basic
areas of research, including genomic technologies for specific
projects of relevance to Canada's major agricultural commodities
and for increased R&D in support of agri-food regulation. The
report also emphasized the principle of building on strengths and
Parliament's Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food held
a set of meetings this spring, also in support of the development of
the Canadian Biotechnology Strategy. In a report (1998) entitled
Capturing the Advantage: Agricultural Biotechnology in the New
Millennium, it recommended that
■ funding for long-term basic research within AAFC be increased.
Special mention was made of projects of major international
potential and of research to build on Canadian strengths and
commercial possibilities through partnerships.
The Medical Research Council's Genome Task Force in a report (1 998)
entitled Genomics: A Platform for the New Century concluded that
■ genomics is one of the most important emerging fields of
scientific research, promising enormous benefits for quality of life,
wealth creation, and sustainable development with consequences
for every branch of life science: human health, agriculture,
fisheries, forestry, and more.
The National Research Council in an independent report (1998)
entitled Genome Sciences Strategic Initiative concludes that
■ genomics will have a major impact on the development of new
plant varieties, the manipulation of plant genetic traits, and the
production of new tools for monitoring and managing biodiversity.
Taken together the reports conclude:
■ genomics is the opportunity of the coming century and is of
pivotal importance to many sectors; the reality is that many
important genes for critical human needs will soon be discovered
and patented using advanced genomics tools, and Canada must
be a player
■ research in the area of genomics needs to be funded
■ there is a need for multidisciplinary approaches
■ many opportunities are cross sectoral in nature
■ both private and public institutions have significant roles to play.
Canadian potential to capture tin benefits
■ Canada's agri-food industry generates $44 billion annually in
revenue. Total agri-food exports are $20 billion annually; of this,
food products now account for $8 billion. The sector accounts for
1 5% of Canadian employment and 9% of our gross domestic
■ As most of Canada's potentially arable land is currently in
production, and because the sector receives few subsidies,
Canada's capacity to meet the ever-expanding demand for more
and better food products by a world with an estimated
population of 8 billion by 2030 will depend on innovation
increasingly involving biotechnology.
■ Canadian economic activity surrounding agri-food biotechnology
($319 million) is second only to that of the pharmaceutical
industry ($396 million). It is estimated that 26% of Canada's core
biotechnology companies are in the agrifood sector. This biotech
industry weighting, which is about fivefold that of the United
States, provides an extremely strong rationale to accelerate
Canadian agri-food biotechnology investment.
■ About 20% of processed foods and beverages are produced
utilizing the techniques of biotechnology; fermentation
technologies have been particularly widely adopted.
« The developed world's aging demographics have generated
exciting markets for functional food and nutraceutical products
having health-promoting attributes. The National Institute of
Nutrition recognizes the tremendous potential of biotechnology to
enhance the nutritional qualities and health properties of food.
These functional foods point to the convergence of the agri-food
and health industries.
A cooperative approach involving the private sector, public
research institutions, and government regulators has permitted
the rapid adoption of crops with novel traits produced using
biotechnology. For example, we estimate that transgenic varieties
of canola will be grown on 50% of the crop's Canadian acreage
in 1998. This represents a remarkable adoption rate, as such
varieties only received their first interim registrations in 1 995.
■ Canada is a globally important producer of crops. Currently we
account for more than 5% of the world's production of wheat,
barley, canola, flax, peas, and lentils. Much of this production is
currently exported as bulk commodity.
■ Wheat, barley, and canola exports amount to about 85% of
Canada's bulk crop exports. Canada is a major producer of
wheat and canola. Major benefits are expected to accrue to
Canada from research to improve wheat and canola production
efficiencies through enhanced insect and disease resistance and
better tolerances to low temperature and drought. Improved
processed quality and nutritional traits, as well as derived
value-added products, will dramatically increase values. Research
efforts in farmed crops will focus on wheat and canola. This
means that successes will result in extremely meaningful benefits
for Canada in terms of economic sustainability and the
Both plants and animals have been used as vehicles to produce
high-value molecules for extremely diverse applications. For
example, human therapeutic proteins including enzymes,
antibodies, and vaccines have all been expressed in a range of
plant species. Plants also have much potential for producing
chemicals for industrial, food, and feed applications. Research
Branch scientists are collaborators in such projects. For example,
the microflora found in the rumen of cattle are being mined for
beneficial genes. Collaborative projects in future would target
products for the agri-food sector and chemicals of interest to
other sectors. We expect that cooperative projects in future would
rapidly evolve between the Human and Plant Genome program
The receptor haw for technologies
i Many multinational agricultural companies have an active R&D
presence in Canada. Novaritis, DuPont, Monsanto, Pioneer
Hi-Bred, Dow AgroScience, AgrEvo-PGS, Limagrain, Zeneca,
DeKalb, and Svalof Weibul are examples. All are incorporating
their biotechnology innovations into seeds that are sold to
producers. Such mechanisms for technology dissemination are
extremely efficient, as the adoption rate of herbicide-tolerant
canola varieties proves.
There are a considerable number of Canadian plant biotech
startups (Performance Plants, Prairie Plants, SemBioSys, DNA
Landmarks), in addition to Canadian seed companies.
Private industry players are actively restructuring world wide in
an effort to position themselves to capture emerging value chains
that can be exploited by application of plant functional genomics.
Major organizations are vertically integrating to provide both
commodity production input products (e.g. pest-resistant varieties)
and to process novel trait crops into feeds, foods, and ingredients
for markets world wide. These developments are expected to
provide Canadians with many opportunities for technological
innovation and commercial exploitation.
^fI0.J^C competency in plant science
■ Research Branch has provided effective national leadership to the
Canadian agri-food sector in scientific and technology
development for more than 1 00 years. We have pursued gene
discovery and exploitation research, and then delivered the
results as technologies in finished products — commercial
agricultural crop varieties. To accomplish this track record,
Research Branch, through its network of 1 8 specialized centres
strategically located near our clients and partners, has
established comprehensive expertise in all the component
scientific disciplines of plant science.
■ Plant genomics relates to Research Branch business lines
including genetic resources, crops, soil resources, animals, and
value-added foods. All business lines incorporate biotechnology
into their science and technology development projects.
■ Research Branch has the extensive biological support essential for
gene discovery and exploitation. This includes pathology,
entomology, weed science, physiology, agronomy, chemistry,
genetics, bioinformatics, and crop breeding.
■ Research Branch has already made a significant investment in
Some biotechnology applications in AAFC
m AAFC in partnership with industry led development and
introduction of the first commercial transgenic oilseed variety in
the world — Innovator Canola.
■ Canada has internationally respected agricultural biotechnology
regulations thanks to effective cooperation between the public
and private sectors to resolve the issues by doing and applying
Breeding programs for field crops (barley, wheat, oats, canola,
flax, and peas) have developed and implemented routine use of
molecular and genomic tools such as doubled haploidy, genome
maps, and gene (trait) markers (marker-assisted selection).
Map-based gene cloning in wheat and canola is under way.
Gene-expression studies (jointly with the Plant Biotechnology
Institute of the NRC) have been established.
Proprietary genes and gene promoters have been discovered
related to carbohydrate metabolism and cold tolerance.
Linkages and partnerships
m Research Branch, consisting of 1 8 specialized centres having
strong relationships with, and presence on or near major
universities across Canada, would facilitate collaboration and
stimulate human resource development.
■ Through its Matching Investment Initiative Program, Research
Branch has established strong working relationships with its
industry partners and clients. The branch has developed
considerable capability on business and legal aspects related to
the development, management, and exploitation of intellectual
Research Branch has strong and longstanding working
relationships with NRC and laboratories in Europe as well as
with science establishments of the United States government. For
example, with the NRC, Research Branch transformed an
industrial oilseed into a new edible oil — canola; this was followed
by herbicide-tolerant canola.
Proposed crop genomics initiative in relation to the
overall Canadian genomics effort
■ Because the global race to discover and patent genes from a
wide array of species is now under way, AAFC recommends that
government investment in biotechnology should build on existing
strengths and foster complementary activities.
■ AAFC supports many of the common principles enumerated in
the NRC and MRC genomics proposals. Namely, an entity
consisting of interested stakeholders should be created to
facilitate the establishment of strategic alliances to develop
"platform" genomic technologies and provide services to
functional genomics initiatives in humans, plants (particularly in
Arabidopsis and rice for application in Canadian crops), and
possibly other appropriate organisms.
■ Appropriate platform technologies and services could include
■ high-throughput DNA sequencing to support international
efforts in sequencing the rice and Arabidopsis genomes
■ DNA (gene) chips.
AAFC would work closely with NRC in the development and
utilization of these platform technologies.
AAFC believes that successful functional genomics initiatives,
particularly those relating to expression of desirable agronomic
traits and processed-product qualities, will depend on extensive
and related competencies in molecular and quantitative genetics,
physiology, pathology, and biochemistry of the relevant target
organism. Groups leading the development of organism-specific
functional genomics technologies should have demonstrated a
broad capacity and be in a position to form partnerships and
agreements with key groups across Canada, and world wide.
Research Branch led functional genomics initiative
Based on the above-mentioned criteria, Research Branch is best
positioned to lead functional genomics initiatives relating to
economic plants within a "virtual" public research organization.
■ The Initiative would be led and managed by Research Branch.
Two integrated sets of collaborative multidisciplinary projects
would be organized, incorporating scientific strengths wherever
they might exist within Canada and as appropriate in other
countries. One set would focus on Arabidopsis and canola and
the other on rice and wheat.
■ An essential element of the strategy would be to lever available
data from global chromosome-sequencing programs in
Arabidopsis and rice (and possibly other cereals) to target
desirable genes for the sustainable development of Canada's
agri-food sector, particularly those areas relating to canola
Plant genome projects would require close cooperation with
"platform technology" initiatives within and outside of AAFC.
Services and technologies needed would include high-throughput
DNA sequencing, bioinformatics, DNA chips, and proteomics.
To effectively utilize the gene discoveries from genomics research,
this initiative must develop key enabling technologies such as
promoters and plant transformation protocols to enable freedom
to operate for a broad base of industry and public laboratories
to commercialize the newly discovered genes controlling
agriculturally useful traits.
A major goal of the program is to commercialize genomic
technologies involving plants. Because genomics research is
expected to result in rapid gene discoveries, and hence to
generate intellectual property, a major focus of the initiative will
be to manage intellectual property in such a way as to create
business opportunities that will stimulate establishment and
growth of viable Canadian plant genomics companies.
Research Branch will establish partnerships with MRC, NRC,
universities, and the private sector to assemble the best possible
teams for each project to accomplish objectives most effectively.
(pi vgi urn elemen ts
While the appropriate core facilities and key biological resources are
essential if the opportunities for accelerated gene discovery offered
by modern genomics are to be realized, the success of a Canadian
Crop Genomics Initiative will ultimately depend on
■ the ability of biologists to detect differences in plant phenotype,
e.g. pathologists detecting changed disease reactions,
physiologists detecting enhanced cold acclimation, or chemists
measuring changes in seed quality
■ the imagination and ingenuity of scientists in converting
information about gene activity into enhanced crop performance.
For this reason, the main component of the proposed Canadian Crop
Genomics Initiative will be a coordinated set of targeted and biology-
driven projects lead by AAFC scientists who have the most relevant
The projects will be targeted to the crop systems with
■ the best short-term potential for rapid gene discovery
■ the best long-term potential for generating economic benefits
from enhanced performance.
The projects will also be targeted to
■ traits of strategic importance to Canada
■ traits in which Canadian science is likely to maintain an
The biology-driven projects will include five main types of activities:
■ gene discovery
■ comparative biology
■ developing new technologies (in both molecular biology and
■ map-based gene cloning
■ crop modification.
This program will incorporate Canada's historic strength in plant
breeding and plant biology into a genomics-based gene discovery
initiative. The program will involve targeted funding for developing
key infrastructure and biological resources, and for biology-driven
projects for gene identification and crop enhancement.
■ Infrastructure investments will be made to automate gene
■ The minimum physical infrastructure needed to support Canadian
crop genomics research is high-capacity DNA sequencing (with
bioinformatics analysis) and facilities for generating and
screening DNA chips and microarrays. Together, these facilities
will generate the molecular data that makes it possible to
automate some aspects of gene discovery.
■ Two types of biological resources are central to the process of
accelerating gene cloning and gene discovery for wheat and
canola. These resources are ordered genome libraries and gene-
■ Ordered large-insert libraries of genomic clones (ordered
genome libraries) automate the process of map-based gene
cloning and are of great use in comparative biology and in the
identification of duplicate genes. Ordered genome libraries also
facilitate the isolation of the chromosome segments corresponding
to expressed sequence tagging and thus gene-engineering and
Gene-tagging populations can be used to discover the functions
of genes through reverse genetics. At present, this process
involves inserting gene-disrupting elements at random into a
plant genome and using the polymerase chain reaction technique
to identify plants with insertions in particular genes. The
characteristics of these mutated plants are then investigated. A
whole library of such plants can now be developed, in which
each plant has a disrupting element inserted into a different gene
and in which the genomic DNA sequence of each mutagenic
insertion point has been determined and catalogued. With this
type of population, computers can be used to identify the plant
that has a mutation in a gene of interest. The identified plant can
then be subjected to exhaustive analysis to identify even very
subtle changes in phenotype.
Targeting Canadian traits
■ Cold and heat tolerance and freezing resistance are
important characteristics for almost all crops and are of crucial
strategic importance to Canada. Freezing resistance has a
significant bearing on yield stability and cold tolerance
(particularly as it relates to the vigor of seedling growth) and has
a major influence on yield potential. Parallel gene discovery
programs in different systems will likely uncover novel and
complementary avenues to engineering increased cold tolerance
and increased frost resistance.
■ Resistance to disease is an important characteristic in all crops.
Many pathogens are specific to particular crops, and the
economic importance of different pathogens often varies with
geographical region. For these reasons, genes involved in
mechanisms for disease resistance must be given a high priority
by the Canadian Crop Genomics Initiative. There are also many
similarities between the mechanisms that plants use to detect and
respond to different pathogens. These similarities will provide
useful points of contact and information exchange between
scientists working on different systems.
Seed quality is a major component of all cereals, pulses, and
oilseed crops. The genes that control seed development, carbon
partitioning, protein quality, oil quality, starch quality, and the
accumulation of antinutritional compounds will be major targets
for discovery and modification by the Canadian Crop Genomics
Resistance to insects is important for reducing crop losses and
pesticide use. Canada's major crops are affected by a variety of
insects, such as flea beetles in canola and wheat midge.
Molecular biologists and entomologists will examine and develop
a molecular basis for both antibiotic and antixenotic approaches
to insect resistance. Germplasm and varieties will be developed
with resistance to economically important insects.
The budget estimate for a globally competitive initiative in plant
genomics involves an investment of $25 million annually over a
Biotechnology research and
AAFC has significant biotechnology expertise in eight of its 1 8
research centres across Canada. Each centre has a specialized
mandate to build on the agricultural strengths of the region.
Coordinated programs across centres create a strong national
capability. A brief description of biotechnology research in AAFC
Pacific Agricultural Research Centre, Summerland
The research program focuses on
■ development of agronomic traits for tree fruit, small fruit, and
■ protection against plant pathogens, including fungi, viruses and
bacteria, and insects
■ processing, utilization, and quality of plant products.
Scientists have been working on
■ molecular control of enzymatic browning in pear and apple
■ resistance to numerous diseases (e.g. fire blight, scab, powdery
mildew) using transgenes
■ genomic mapping and gene isolation in apple
■ marker-assisted selection for self fertility in cherry
■ control of biological systems that regulate fruit flavor, texture, and
■ transgene-based virus resistance
■ DNA-based diagnostics for viruses, bacteria, and fungi
■ gene mapping and cloning in fungi and bacteria
■ risk assessment for recombination between transgene viral
sequences and the actual virus
■ modification of viruses and fungi as biocontrol agents.
The centre is well connected to the horticultural industry and the
research community, nationally and internationally.
Lethbridge Research Centre
The centre conducts biotechnology research on ruminant animals and
potatoes. Results include
■ enzymes isolated from rumen microorganisms involved in
digestion of complex carbohydrates and proteins
■ expression systems developed for producing enzymes (xylanases,
celluloses, phytases, proteases) that originate from rumen micro-
organisms as components of fodder plants and as feed additives
for nonruminant animals
■ microbes identified that produce bacteriocins and bioactive
peptides for control of rumen microflora
■ biotechnology used in potato for germplasm identification,
studies of genetic inheritance, germplasm development, and
identification of DNA markers
■ detection systems developed for several fungal and viral
pathogens (Fusarium, potato leafroll virus, tobacco rattle virus)
■ DNA markers identified for resistance to Verticillium.
The centre has strong connections to the beef and potato industries.
Saskatoon Research Centre
The major focus of the centre is on canola development. The
program has a large molecular genetics group, and sections on
■ ecological crop protection
■ natural products chemistry
■ sustainable land management.
The centre has an active program of germplasm development for
Brassica napus, 8. rapa, and the related species 8. juncea,
8. carinata, and Sinapis alba. The capacity for germplasm
development is a major resource for biotechnology research and
Targets for crop improvement are
■ resistance to insects (phytochemicals, protease inhibitors)
■ cold tolerance (modifying low-temperature growth characteristics
and controlling cold acclimatisation)
■ resistance to pathogens (Leptosphaeria, Sclerotinia - designing
resistance genes, pyramiding resistance genes, interspecific
transfer of genes)
■ oil quality
■ meal quality
increasing yield capability (new hybrid systems and reduced pod
■ drought and heat tolerance.
The centre has new laboratories designed especially for
biotechnology and genomics research, with facilities for
developing large insect libraries of genomic clones for map-
based gene cloning
■ sequencing (for developing expressed sequence tags and
■ systems for controlling gene expression
■ marker-assisted selection of complex plant genotypes
■ mathematical modeling
The centre has a good working relationship with the National
Research Council's Plant Biotechnology Institute. It enjoys a long
tradition of close cooperation with all segments of the oilseed
industry and is strongly supported by the Canola Council of Canada.
The main laboratory building is ideally situated for collaboration with
private sector partners in research and development, including the
major domestic and multinational agrochemical and seed companies,
who have research laboratories at Innovation Place, adjacent to the
University of Saskatchewan.
Cereal Research Centre, Winnipeg
The centre is the national centre of specialization for cereal crops
and is internationally recognized for its work on hard red spring
wheat and flax. It has one of the best collections world wide of
genetic resources on wheat, barley, and flax. The program utilizes
marker-assisted selection for
■ high protein content
■ heavy metal uptake
■ disease resistance (Fusarium, stem and leaf rust, tan spot)
■ insect resistance (wheat midge)
■ weathering resistance.
Genome mapping has been used for an array of traits affecting end-
use quality. All registered Canadian wheat varieties have been DNA
fingerprinted. Gene cloning has been practised for specific proteins
that affect milling and baking quality (glutenins) and disease
resistance. The centre has a strong tradition in host-parasite
physiology and in developing cultivars with superior quality. It is a
logical extension to apply the tools of genomics for a better
understanding of the interactions between pathogens and plants, as
well as manipulating genes that affect quality components in the
seed. The program has a highly effective integration of the molecular
biology team with plant breeders, pathologists, entomologists, and
The centre has close working relationships with several private sector
partners for the development of
■ hybrid wheats
■ end use quality traits (storage proteins, modifying starch
synthesis, industrial enzymes)
■ antifungal proteins
■ agronomic traits (lodging resistance, sprouting resistance,
The centre, located on the University of Manitoba campus, has good
working relationships with the
■ grain industry
■ Canadian Wheat Board
■ Canadian Grain Commission
■ Western Grain Research Foundation
■ Keystone Agriculture Producers
■ other organisations.
Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre,
The program has responsibility for variety development for corn,
soybean, wheat, barley, and oats for Eastern Canada. It has one of
the largest and longest operating plant biotechnology groups in
Canada. The centre has expertise in molecular strategies for
■ gene expression (promoters, transacting factors)
■ insect resistance
■ cold tolerance
■ seed protein modification
■ host-pathogen interaction
■ seed coat modification
■ control of development (fertility).
The biotechnology group is closely integrated with scientists working
on variety development. Specific projects include
■ resistance to Fusarium in corn and wheat
■ resistance to Sclerotinia and Phytophthora in soybean
■ transformation technologies
■ constitutive and tissue-specific promoters
■ cold tolerance in corn and soybean
■ marker-assisted selection for disease resistance and end use traits
in oats, barley, wheat, and soybean
■ expressed sequence tags in soybean
■ mapping of the oat genome.
The centre has a history of strong working relationships with large
private-sector companies and is strongly supported by small seed
companies based in Ontario and Quebec, Secan, and the Ontario
Field Crops Research coalition.
Southern Crop Protection and Food Research
The program focuses on the development of
■ environmentally friendly systems for the protection of fruit,
vegetable, ornamental, and field crops against insect and plant
alternate crops for the coarse-textured soils of southern Ontario.
Current biotechnology projects include
■ production of pharmaceutical products (vaccines for diseases of
swine, immune modulators for treatment of diabetes) using
tobacco and other plant species
■ expressed sequence tags in stevia (a plant grown for production
of low-calorie sweetener)
■ isolation of seed-coat-specific genes in soybean
■ mapping and cloning of genes for resistance to Phytophthora
diagnostics for fungi, based on polymerase chain reaction
■ molecular genetics of pathogenicity in Verticillium
m isolation and characterization of microbial agents for
bioremediation of soils
■ characterization of virulence genes in the bacterial tomato
pathogens Xanthomonas campestris and Pseudomonas syringae
■ isolation of tumorigenesis-suppressing genes from Agrobacterium
vitis (crown gall in grape)
■ Bacillus thuhngiensis resistance in corn borer
■ plant transformation systems for stevia and other potential new
* resistance to fire blight in pear.
The centre is located in the heart of an area of intensive horticultural
production. Protection research is aimed at gaining a fundamental
understanding of the interaction between pest and host. The ultimate
objective is to develop superior control technologies.
Soils and Crops Research and Development Centre,
The centre concentrates on developing forage crops and sustainable
production systems. Current projects in biotechnology work on
developing alfalfa cultivars with superior winter survival. Molecular
probes and restricted fragment length polymorphism markers are
developed for genes whose low- temperature expression is related to
improved survival. Marker-assisted selection is developed for a
number of fungal and bacterial pathogens (Phytophthora,
Aphanomyces, Verticillium, Fusarium, Corynebacterium). A more
novel project conducted in collaboration with firms in the
pharmaceutical industry involves producing large amounts of high-
value pharmaceutical proteins using transgenic alfalfa plants.
The centre is closely linked to Laval University, MAPAQ, Coop
Federee, UPA, and the seed industry.
Potato Research Centre, Fredericton
The centre mandate includes
■ potato breeding
■ a national repository of potato genetic resources
■ potato pest management, physiology, and soil and water
Biotechnology projects include the development or characterization of
■ DNA markers for sugar content and dormancy
■ a promoter for processing quality traits
■ genes related to sugar metabolism and dormancy
■ DNA level information for genetic combining ability of a parent
■ a viral promoter for a number of pathogens
■ genes related to late blight, common scab, and viruses from
■ rt-polymerase chain reaction technology for potato virus and
The centre is closely linked to major Canadian potato processors
(McCains, Cavendish Farms), as well as to the seed trade. About
50% of seed potatoes exported from Canada are grown in close
proximity to the centre.
In addition to these eight centres, there are 10 other AAFC centres of
specialization across Canada. Each uses the tools of biotechnology in
carrying out its research program and is part of a mechanism to
develop the products of biotechnology to the stage of technology
transfer to the agricultural industry.
■ The centres at Swift Current, Brandon, and Harrow use doubled
haploids and marker-assisted selection in developing durum
wheat, specialty wheats, barley, and soybean.
■ The centres at Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Charlottetown, and
Lacombe have expertise in developing systems for control of
disease, insects, and weeds.
■ The centres at Kentville and St-John's develop cultivars of small
fruits (blueberry, strawberry, and lingonberry) and apples.
■ The centres at Saint-Hyacinthe and Lacombe work on food issues
from bio-ingredients to novel products, packaging, and
Collectively, the 1 8 centres represent a strong network for developing
and delivering technology to the Canadian agri-food industry.
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